Starting this summer, livestock antibiotics won’t be available over the counter

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Big health management changes are coming this summer for Alabama’s livestock producers. On June 11, the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, will implement its directive, “Guidance for the Industry #263,” which states over-the-counter antibiotics used for livestock health will no longer be available without a prescription from a licensed veterinarian. This is being done to combat antimicrobial resistance within the industry.

Soren Rodning, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist and Auburn University professor, specializes in animal sciences and forages, specifically livestock health management. Serving as the Alabama Extension veterinarian, he works primarily with the state’s cattle producers, but he also has a minor emphasis on goats, sheep, pigs and horses. Rodning offers his expertise on what this new FDA directive will mean for Alabama livestock producers.

Which products are affected?

All livestock antibiotics that are currently available over the counter and that are also used in human medicine will require a veterinary prescription beginning in June. This includes, but is not limited to, penicillin, oxytetracycline, sulfa antibiotics, erythromycin, tylosin and lincomycin. It is important to note that livestock antibiotics are not being removed from the marketplace, but they are being brought under veterinary oversight.

Which products are unaffected?

There are several products that are unaffected by the change. These include ionophores, vaccines, antiparaciticides (dewormers, insect repellants, etc.), most injectable and oral nutritional supplements, oral probiotics and prebiotics, topical nonantibiotic treatments, growth promoting implants and others. These products will continue to remain available through standard over-the-counter marketing channels.

Do I have to buy the antibiotics from my veterinarian?

No, this change does not require you to purchase antibiotics from a veterinarian. However, you will be legally required to get a prescription for antibiotics from a licensed veterinarian that you have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship with. Once you have that prescription, you can buy the livestock antibiotics from a variety of online and physical locations that process veterinary prescriptions.

What can I do to prepare for these changes?

If you already have a working relationship with a veterinarian, now is the time to consult with them to develop a plan to adjust the way your farm will access livestock antibiotics. If you do not currently have a working relationship with a veterinarian, now is the time to establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship so that you have access to veterinary services in the future, including prescription medications.

What should I not do to prepare for these changes?

While it might be tempting to stock up on these antibiotics, we advise against this because these products can expire and lose their effectiveness before they are used. The best strategy is to collaborate with your veterinarian when animals need treatment.

More Information Media interested in talking to Rodning can contact Director of University Communications Services Preston Sparks at 334-844-9999 or

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